On Jan. 20, 1.6 million Zambians went to the polls to vote in a special presidential election arranged after the death of former President Michael Sata. (Technically, some of them had to wait until Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 21 and 22.) Edgar Lungu of the ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), won the closely fought race, with 48.3 percent of the vote. United Party of National Development (UPND) candidate Hakainde Hichilema lost after garnering 46.7 percent of the vote. It was unclear who would emerge the victor until late Saturday when the final ballots were counted and acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda declared Lungu the winner. Hichilema released a statement Saturday before the final declaration was made; in it, he alleged the election had been stolen by Lungu and the PF. The allegations didn’t stop Lungu from being inaugurated early Sunday.
There were 11 candidates in all, but none of the other nine candidates managed to muster even 1 percent of the total vote. Though the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has been a major political party in Zambia’s recent elections, its candidate, Nevers Mumba, had a woeful performance. Mumba’s poor showing reflects a serious shift in Zambia, which had an MMD president for 20 years, from 1991 until the 2011 elections, when Sata won his first term in office.
Though the UPND lost in this election, Hichilema outperformed any previous UPND showing, gaining support in new areas and increasing support in previous strongholds. UPND was the only party to have increased its vote share in every province in the country in the 2015 election (PF increased its vote share in all but Western province).